Christine Sinclair, Thank You
In the early hours of Monday July 31st, fans across the country set their alarms earlier than I’m sure they’d like to set on a Monday to cheer on Team Canada at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Canada was facing home team Australia in a make-or-break game that would decide whether the reigning Olympic gold medalists would advance to the knockout stage.
Australia took an early 1-0 lead when Hayley Raso scored her first goal of the game in only nine minutes. As the clock ticked on, the dread for Canadian supporters dragged out. When the dust had settled, Australia emerged victorious winning 4-0 against Canada. After just three games, Canada was officially eliminated from the World Cup.
The loss meant Canada’s chance at proving their potential on the world stage was over, but furthermore, it meant Canadian soccer legend Christine Sinclair may have taken to the pitch for the final time repping the red and white.
In her long and impressive career, Sinclair has easily reached GOAT status. She’s represented Canada at the senior level since 2000 and has captained the team since 2006. She is a three-time Olympic medalist and has appeared in 325 international games, scoring 190 international goals. It’s hard to imagine a Canadian team without her.
Coming from a soccer family, Sinclair began playing the game at four. By the time she turned 11, Sinclair had made British Columbia’s under-14 provincial team. At 15 years old, Sinclair was noticed by former Team Canada head coach Even Pellerud. Sinclair made her senior Team Canada debut one year later, at just 16 years old, during the Algarve Cup in 2000. She became Canada’s youngest-ever player, and when she scored her first-ever goal for Team Canada during the tournament, she became Canada’s youngest-ever goal scorer.
Quickly, Sinclair was regarded as one of Canada’s top players, if not the best. During the 2002 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup, Sinclair scored seven goals, tying for the most in the tournament with fellow teammate Charmaine Hooper and Team USA’s Tiffeny Milbrett. Canada’s second-place finish at the tournament helped them secure a spot in the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Canada ultimately finished fourth in the World Cup, the country’s best finish to date, and Sinclair netted three goals.
“It’s almost two different worlds from when I started on the national team till now,” Sinclair said in a video posted by Canada Soccer in 2020. “Participating in my first world cup, people didn’t care that we finished fourth. In Canada but also throughout the world, women’s football wasn’t there yet.”
Ahead of the 2006 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup, Sinclair was named captain–she was only 23 years old. In her first stint as captain, Sinclair led Canada to a second-place finish and the team qualified for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Sinclair’s first major title with Canada came at the 2010 CONCACAF W Championship, where Canada finished first in a 1-0 victory over Mexico. Sinclair had the team’s lone championship goal. While the team advanced to the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, they were eliminated in the group stage.
For the Canadians that hadn’t followed the women’s national team, the 2012 London Olympics put the rest of the country on notice. Canada narrowly escaped the group stage as the third seed but surprised many when they beat host nation Great Britain in the quarter-finals. Canada faced the USA in the semi-finals in what is still considered today one of the greatest women’s soccer matches. Sinclair scored the team’s opening goal and just kept scoring. But, as everyone knows, the Canadians lost 4-3 in extra time. Nevertheless, Canada captured a bronze medal against France. It was the Canadian women’s first Olympic soccer medal.
After the tournament’s end, Sinclair gained much recognition. Sinclair was awarded the golden boot as the leading goal scorer in the tournament and was chosen as Canada’s flag bearer for the closing ceremony. She also received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, a commemorative medal marking the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession. In the following months, she was awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy, given to Canada’s top athlete.
The London Olympics was a turning point for Sinclair and the Canadian women’s national soccer team. The match between Canada and the USA saw a total of 10.7 million Canadian viewers tune in at some point during the game. TSN’s broadcast saw an average of 2.4 million viewers. At the time, it was the second most-watched Olympic event ever on the network.
In the following years, there were big expectations for both Sinclair and Team Canada. Canada was set to host the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and everyone wanted an impressive finish on home soil. A quarter-final loss to England wasn’t what anyone had envisioned.
However, the team and fans didn’t have much time to dwell on the loss as the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro fast approached. Canada won all three group-stage matches and advanced to the quarter-finals against France, winning 1-0. They lost to Germany in the semi-finals and once again played for bronze on the Olympic stage, ultimately capturing the medal in a 2-1 victory over Brazil. Sinclair scored the game-winning goal for a total of three goals throughout the tournament.
While Canada would look to achieve a better result than third at the Olympics or fourth at the upcoming World Cup, Sinclair was also looking to make history. During the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Sinclair was chasing American Abby Wambach’s record for the most international goals scored ever by a woman or man. While Canada was eliminated in the round of 16, Sinclair was only three goals away from surpassing the record.
During a 2020 Olympic qualifier event against Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sinclair made history, tying then breaking the record by scoring career goal no. 184 and 185. Her record-breaking goal was named Canada Soccer’s Moment of the Year.
“For me, it has nothing to do with the record,” Sinclair said. “To now be able to inspire young girls to pursue their crazy, wild dreams, it’s pretty cool.”
But what would an illustrious career for Sinclair be without an Olympic gold medal to cap it off? Canada made history when the women’s soccer team captured its first Olympic gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. They defeated the USA in the semi-finals for the first time in 20 years and ultimately prevailed over Sweden in the finals and Sinclair’s leadership was a big factor in the team’s success.
Canada’s disappointing exit at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is not how fans will remember Sinclair’s career. But, it will be Canadian's last memory of seeing Sinclair represent Canada.
It’s safe to say Sinclair’s impact on soccer and Canada’s national team is extraordinary, and the game will never be the same without her. Sinclair has given herself entirely to Canada throughout the years, and as fans, all we can do now is celebrate her achievements and help usher in the next chapter of Canadian women’s players.
Thank you Christine Sinclair.